Gay Vacations in Europe

Europe Highlights

  • Travel during shoulder seasons. Spring and fall are the best times to go to Europe to avoid crowds and high prices and still enjoy good weather. In July and August, some cities practically shut down for holidays, while others overflow with vacationers.
  • Airfare within Europe costs next to nothing. If you have some flexibility with your plans, purchasing intra-Europe airfare once you are there is the best way to city-hop easily and cheaply.
  • Expect a liberal attitude toward sexuality. Gay travel in Europe could include gay bars where patrons go nude or swanky bisexual bathhouses. And be warned: In some cities you may see prostitutes selling their wares in street windows or families lying out naked in city parks. First-time American travelers could be in for a shock!
  • Watch your politics. Europeans love discussing politics—especially how much they dislike American politics! It's best to refrain from arguing; you're on their turf after all.
  • Expect high costs. Shop around for vacation deals, because countries that don't use the pricey euro currency (such as Norway and Switzerland) are still not cheap. London and Moscow are Europe's most expensive cities.

From skiing the Swiss Alps to sleeping in a Scottish castle, and cruising down the Danube to laying out au naturel on a Mediterranean beach, nothing compares with a grand trip to Europe. Few parts of the world are more open to gay travelers than this continent. Whether it’s Madrid's pumping after-hours club scene, Dublin's cozy and friendly pubs, the women-filled beaches of Lesbos, Vienna's classy yet over-the-top Life Ball, or Budapest's artsy lesbian café culture, in Europe, gay travel offers rich and varied experiences. Just keep in mind that Europe can be an expensive place to visit.

The rule of thumb is that the farther north and west you go in Europe, the more progressive the attitude toward gays. For instance, some American travelers are surprised to find gay bars in Rome that look and act more like underground speak-easies, or closeted, married Athenians who go to Mykonos to be gay for the weekend. In Europe, gay travel experiences probably are best in cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid, Milan and Manchester. Summer resorts for gay travel include the islands of Ibiza and Sitges off the coast of Spain, Mykonos, Greece, the German island of Sylt, and the Canary Islands.

Eastern and Central Europe lag behind their western counterparts in attitudes toward gays, but with their incorporation into the European Union, laws and attitudes have changed. Now Eastern and Central Europe are among the most compelling regions for gay travel, with maturing scenes in Prague, Budapest, and Moscow, and nascent movements forming in places such as Bucharest. But without a doubt, gay travelers will feel comfortable nearly anywhere in Europe. In fact, many countries, including Slovenia and Croatia, recognize gay unions.


Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Europe

$118-$1194
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Eurostars Madrid Tower
$133-$152
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Esplanade Zagreb Hotel
$182-$185
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Sirkeci Mansion Istanbul
$224
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Sofitel London Heathrow

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